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N.H. Senate advances offshore wind procurement plan with near-unanimous vote

The New Hampshire state Senate on Thursday advanced a plan to require utility investment in large offshore wind energy projects and other renewable sources. The proposal for what’s known as a “procurement program” passed on a bipartisan 23 to 1 vote.

The amended bill would have a new state committee solicit proposals from New Hampshire utilities for connecting the regional grid to at least 600 megawatts of new offshore wind on the East Coast, and up to 800 megawatts of renewables total – two-thirds the output of Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant.

The committee, governor and state Attorney General would pick bids that would help lower costs for ratepayers and have other environmental and economic benefits for New Hampshire. The chosen utilities would then be directed to sign power purchase agreements of up to 30 years.

The plan has earned an uncommon level of bipartisan support from lawmakers, compared to other plans to expand renewable energy usage that have fizzled in recent years. New Hampshire now lags its New England neighbors on plans to address the climate crisis.

The procurement bill’s lead sponsor, Democratic Sen. David Watters of Dover, has emphasized its bipartisan planning and its focus on lowering costs and offsetting winter price spikes for fossil fuels. He’s also stressed Republican Gov. Chris Sununu’s support for wind growth and oversight of the proposed procurement process.

“This leadership has been important to send a message to this industry that New Hampshire is open for business,” Watters said Thursday.

Sununu has not indicated whether he’ll support the procurement bill. In 2019, he vetoed a Watters bill that would have set up a study committee on renewable energy procurements.

Similar procurement programs have helped kick-start wind projects in Southern New England and New York. Wind industry leaders have told the state repeatedly that the process is an essential signal that New Hampshire is interested in being part of the onshore supply chain.

The procurement bill goes next to the Senate Finance committee.